image: @bellahadid Instagram

image: @bellahadid Instagram

Models Alessandra Ambrosio, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, Elsa Hosk, Paulina Vega, Lais Ribeiro, Rose Bertram, Gizele Oliveira and Hannah Ferguson, among others, have all taken to their Instagram accounts to post photos from a Bahamian getaway. Turns out, their trip was a promotional one in connection with Fyre Festival, as indicated by the uniform Instagram post they all published in the past few days. An orange color swatch bearing the following language, “So excited to announce the first ever #fyrefestival @fyrefestival fyrefestival.com,” now adorns each of their pages.

So, what is Fyre Fest, you ask? Well, according to Fashionista, it is an “immersive music festival takes place on Fyre Cay in the Exumas, a string of islands in the Bahamas. A private plane will fly ticket holders from Miami to this private island where they’ll spend the next 48 hours enjoying music (the headliners and lineup have yet to be announced.”

The fashion blog continues, “As for prices, this festival does not come cheap. Packages start at $1,500, which covers the flight from Miami to Fyre Cay, ticketed admission, meals and hospitality. Accommodations include ‘The Retreat’ with two twin beds, ‘The Duo’ with two tickets, two twin beds and elevated amenities, ‘The Nest’ with two tickets and a queen bed and ‘The Lodge,’ which is $8,999 total for eight tickets and four king beds. If none of that is appealing to you, there are upgrades available that apply to food and VIP access to areas and events throughout the festival.”

This all sounds great except that the models’ promotional efforts in connection with Fyre Fest are almost certainly illegal. As set forth in the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”)’s guidelines, if an individual is compensated in any way to promote/endorse a brand or product (compensation includes anything from a paycheck to free gifts, trips, lodging, etc.) or promote/endorse a brand with which he/she has a relationship, that needs to be disclosed “clearly and conspicuously” in connection with each instance.

The FTC – an independent government agency tasked with promoting consumer protection, and eliminating and preventing anticompetitive business practices – has explicitly stated that its guidelines apply no matter the medium. So, if such promotional/endorsement efforts occur on social media, they need to be disclosed; common disclosure language comes in the form of hashtags, such as “#ad” or “#sponsored.” 

Since none of the aforementioned Instagram posts – all of which almost certainly result from a free trip provided for the models at issue courtesy of Fyre Fest – include disclosures indicating this, they are likely in violation of the FTC’s guidelines. A subsequent (and since deleted) post from Kendall Jenner announcing that artists from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label would perform at the Fest also appears to run afoul of the law.

UPDATE (January 20, 2019): It has since been revealed that the models at issue were, in fact, paid to appear in a promo video for the festival and to promote the fest on social media as part of a viral campaign orchestrated by Jerry Media, Instagram influencer Elliot Tebele’s media agency.

According to court filings in the bankruptcy proceedings that are underway for Fyre Media, the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee Gregory Messer found that IMG models, which represents Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Elsa Hosk, among other models associated with the Fest, received payments totaling $1.2 million from Fyre Fest founder Billy McFarland between November 2016 and February 2017.  Emily Ratajkowski’s agency DNA was paid $299,000 by McFarland in March 2017.

As of now, the FTC has not been involved in the proceedings against Fyre Media. However, there is a chance that Messer will file a formal complaint with the agency, thereby, prompting an investigation of the behavior of Jerry Media, for organizing the disclosure-less social media campaign, and the famous influencers for failing to abide by the law in terms of their individual social media posts.